Can this 30-year transport masterplan really be the blueprint to building a prosperous Northern England?
Earlier last week Transport for the North published a 30-year Strategic Transport Plan, which outlines how improving connectivity in the North of England will help drive growth and close the economic gap between the North and the rest of the UK.
The plan, which has been dubbed ‘revolutionary,’ aims to deliver a £100bn boost to the economy and 850,000 additional jobs by 2050.
Within this plan is Transport for the North’s vision for Northern Powerhouse Rail.
Northern Powerhouse Rail, which would see a new railway line linking Leeds with Manchester via Bradford as well as much faster connections between Leeds and Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull, would mean that an additional 46% of the population, over 1.4 million residents, would be able to access three major cities within 90 minutes from home.
Believe it or not but it has almost been three years since former Chancellor, George Osborne, first launched his Northern Powerhouse scheme to address the UK’s economic imbalance through greater investment, interconnectivity and infrastructure for the North’s major cities.
During this time has the idea of a Northern Powerhouse came into fruition, or has it just remained that….an idea? Undoubtedly there have been many projects launched in this time that have made a contribution to improving businesses and communities in the north, but it does seem that any sort of progress towards realising a Northern Powerhouse is occuring at a much slower pace than many expected.
Granted the progress of the so called Northern Powerhouse was hampered by one of the most uncertain political eras in modern memory. But as the shock of Brexit has begun to subside and with snap general elections in the rearview mirror, it is now time that plans to improve the northern economy drive froward.
And I do believe that this Strategic Transport Plan is exactly what the North needs!
In order for SMEs and communities to thrive, a sufficient and reliable transport network is imperative. Investing in road, rail and other routes throughout the north will be a huge boost to small business owners.
They will have the ability to increase productivity, enter new markets and and travel to many more locations without worrying about congestion or increased costs.
And as the plan states that an additional 344,305 businesses will be able to connect with Leeds within 90 minutes, a well-maintained infrastructure programme is vital to achieving this.
The proposal also estimates that the impact of agglomeration between Leeds and Manchester would deliver an additional £60m a year into the economy.
But as it looks ahead 30 years, the Transport for the North must turn towards businesses within these areas to help deliver their vision, which would in turn also create more opportunity for growth, job creation and boost the economy on a much more local level.
John Cridland, Transport for the North Chairman, previously said: “The North is a rich, diverse region and home to around 16 million people. We have vibrant communities, buzzing cities, five stunning national parks, an abundance of talent and a wealth of high-performing businesses.
“Transport for the North’s vision is of a thriving North of England, where modern transport connections drive economic growth and support an excellent quality of life.”
The vision of a ‘thriving’ North of England and this 30-year plan is unprecedented, but it is now time for the work to begin without any delay.